Why Won't Gallup Ask You the One 'Climate Change' Question That Really Matters?

In its annual environmental survey released this month, Gallup pollsters neglected to ask the most important question in the climate change debate.

Gallup asked respondents about issues that have no relevance to public policy. Rather than inform government decisions on climate change, the survey results will merely be used by both sides in the discussion to their political advantage.

For example, does it make any difference whether Americans have heard that “scientists recently reported that 2015 was the Earth’s warmest year on record,” as Gallup misleadingly informed poll respondents in the preamble to one of their survey questions?

While some scientists believe 2015 temperatures were exceptional, many others do not. The ones who do not understand that -- because of the uncertainties in the early part of the record -- no one knows if temperatures today are higher than in earlier decades. But why would anyone care if a year exceeded the previous warmest one by hundredths, or even by tenths, of a degree? Such changes only appear after complicated manipulation of the data, and are not noticeable in the real world.

Similarly, Gallup’s question about whether the public “generally believe these reports [about 2015’s supposed record] are accurate or not accurate” does not matter. The accuracy of computations of trivial changes is completely unimportant.

Gallup also asked the public what they believe are the causes of the supposed “record temperatures in 2015.” Why? Aside from scientists working in the field, why should any one care why insignificant variations occur?

In reality, this debate is about one question for the scientists, and an entirely different question for the public. For the scientists:

“Will emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activities cause dangerous global warming and other problematic climate change in the foreseeable future?”

Only future climate changes should be of concern to policymakers. We currently know that nothing untoward happened to the climate in the past 150 years, despite a supposed 40% rise in atmospheric CO2 levels. During this period, the global temperature statistic has risen only about 0.8 degrees Celsius, an amount that has been highly beneficial as we emerged from the Little Ice Age.

For the issue to be worthy of public debate -- let alone worthy of a billion dollars a day, the amount now spent around the world on climate finance -- any forecasted temperature rise would need to be expected to be dangerous. Even then, we would have to know with a reasonable degree of confidence that such warming, if it occurs, will be as a result of human CO2 emissions.

The issue at hand is not a generic “human-caused climate change,” one of the possible answers provided by Gallup in their survey. The debate, and indeed the subject of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), concerns only one particular type of human-caused climate change -- namely, change supposedly caused by our CO2 emissions.

Rationally the answer from most of the public to the above hypothetical poll question must be: “I don’t know.” How could they? Even the world’s leading scientists don’t know the answer. Here’s University of Western Ontario applied mathematician Dr. Chris Essex, an expert in the mathematical models that are the basis of climate concerns:

Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. … Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.

So Gallup, here’s the only question that makes any sense to ask the public …